Ice Hockey: Michigan makes it six straight

The No. 7-ranked Michigan ice hockey team returned to Yost Ice Arena on Tuesday night for a critical tilt with the No. 6 Michigan State Spartans. Behind a pair of power-play goals and a 24 save performance from goalie Billy Sauer, the Wolverines held on for a key 2-1 win in their final tune-up before heading out for the annual College Hockey Showcase this upcoming weekend.

With a five-game win streak heading into Tuesday nights' showdown with rival Michigan State, it would have been easy for the No. 7-ranked Wolverines to overlook the Spartans. Yeah, Michigan State holds the No. 6 national ranking in both the national polls, but the Wolverines are on fire and a trip to defending national champion Wisconsin and current No. 1 Minnesota is just off on the horizon.

"We started out a little bit slower," said Michigan forward Kevin Porter, who scored the first of two Michigan power-play goals in the Wolverines 2-1 win over the Spartans on Tuesday night. "So did their team, though. It wasn't a great game at first and then both teams picked it up. Both goalies played great."

After being named the CCHA Goalie of the Week for his performance against Ferris State this past weekend, Michigan sophomore Billy Sauer turned aside 24 of 25 Michigan State shots to record his 10th win of the season.

"Sometimes all it takes is one game. The streak started with Michigan State and we've had six wins since then. It's a good streak that we have going. I'm feeling great and I think the team in front of me is feeling great too. It's a good feeling to be going into Minnesota and Wisconsin with," Sauer said.

In the opening period of play, neither team was able to break onto the scoreboard. Michigan's Chad Kolarik rang a breakaway shot off the far post and the Wolverines outshot the Spartans 9-4 through the first period of play, but Michigan State goalie Jeff Lerg kept the Wolverines off the scoreboard early on.

"It was a hard fought game by both teams. We weren't having our best game, but we got better as the game went on. It was a gut-check type game," Michigan coach Red Berenson said afterwards.

Michigan State struck first in the second period during a four-on-four stint in the opening minute of play. Spartans forward Tim Kennedy took the puck coast-to-coast past the Michigan line up before beating Sauer on a breakaway for the Spartans lone goal of the contest.

After trading scoring attempts over the next 10 minutes, the Wolverines finally knotted the game 1-1 with a power-play goal from Kevin Porter at 12:22 of the frame. Cycling the puck around the Michigan State net, center T.J. Hensick found Kevin Porter on a cross-ice feed through traffic, and Porter one-timed the shot into the near side of the net to make it 1-1.

"I think with the five of us we had out there, we're all skilled guys, the puck is going to be moving pretty fast. I think that was the key for us tonight," said Hensick later on. "Sometimes we might have made an extra pass when we had the shot, but I just thought we were moving the puck well and moving well without the puck. Those are the keys to a successful power play. We had tons of chances and we got one tonight. It was a big one."

Hensick put Michigan on top for good 6:28 into the final period. Again with the man advantage, Hensick took a feed from Kevin Porter between the Spartan circles, spun around the final Michigan State defenseman and fired the puck into the top of the net to end the nights scoring.

"You can't coach that," Berenson said on the final Hensick goal. "But you can recruit it (laughing)."

Michigan State had one final opportunity to tie the score with a 6-on-4 advantage for the final minute of play, but the Wolverines held on to improve to 10-3-0 on the season and 2-1-0 against the rival Spartans. Michigan goes back on the road for the annual College Hockey Showcase with Wisconsin and No. 1 Minnesota this Friday and Saturday night.

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